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Italy's regal province
Piedmont is located in the North West of Italy, bordering France and Switzerland flanked on three sides by the Alps giving rise to the name "pied mont" which means at the foot of the mountains. Boasting Italy's tallest peaks and largest glaciers Piedmont's diverse landscape also features the more hilly wine growing regions of Monferrato and Langhe before flattening out into the plains with their endless rice fields, and historic cities adorned with Royal Palaces of the Kingdom of Savoy. Piedmont offers a culinary feast for the senses where wonderful Barolo wines, white truffles, Aosta valley cheeses, risotto and chocolate with hazelnuts from the Langhe all compete with each other to get the attention of visitors. Who could resist enjoying all these delicacies surrounded by the magnificent scenery of the Alps?
Masino Castle was built in the 11th century and was the residence of the Valperga family for almost ten centuries. The palace’s interior features numerous frescoed rooms - the ballroom, the red salon, the arms hall, the billiards room, the atlas room, the atlas room and the ambassadors’ hall
– which have welcomed such illustrious guests as San Carlo Borromeo, Vittorio Alfieri, Massimo d´Azeglio, Gioacchino Rossini and Silvio Pellico. The palace is surrounded by an English park and a small, Italian garden. Within the park, which often hosts flower exhibitions, there is a small, neo-Gothic temple and an interesting carriage collection.
The 672-m altitude is best surmounted with the Superga rack railway. One has a fantastic view during a ride with this train, reaching from Turin far over the Po River and all the way to the Alps. The system was created by Tommaso Agudio. Operations started for this double-track rack railway on 27 April 1884. The train covers a distance of 3.135 km, has a rail gauge of 1.445 mm and overcomes a difference in height of 419 m during the journey.
The train can carry up to 200 passengers with a maximum of two cars up to the summit. It takes 20 minutes.
The Shroud of Turin is probably the most important relic of the Catholic Church. The shroud, made from undyed linen, has dimensions of 1.10 m by 4.36 m and resides in the Cathedral of Turin. Jesus is said to have been buried in this shroud after his death on the cross. The shroud remains the subject of near fanatic controversy as to its authenticity. There is much to suggest that the shroud really does originate from the time of Jesus and
thus really was his burial shroud. Radio carbon dating done in 1988 with the help of the radioactive carbon isotope C-14, however, dated the shroud to a time period between 1260 - 1390.The shroud was last exhibited from the time between 10 April and 23 May 2010. The next public exhibition will not take place until the year 2025.
The museum of the Shroud of Turin, which can be reached from the cathedral in a few minutes by foot, can be visited year-round. Valuable objects are on display here (like the camera that took the first picture of the Shroud of Turin and the valuable reliquary out of silver and gemstones).
The old Savoy palace of ‘Venaria Reale’, built in the middle of the 17th century near Turin, stood empty for 200 years. After eight years of renovation on the largest construction site that Europe has ever seen for a cultural relic and an investment of 200 million euros, the highest amount ever paid in Italy for the renovation of a historical monument, the enormous royal palace is now open for visitors. Inside, chamber follows chamber, looking just
as magnificent as in the 17th and 18th centuries, decorated with wall paintings, enormous hunting scenes, and stucco work. To be able to imagine the dimensions of the Venaria Reale, you must first know that the castle constantly housed about 3,500 people. Around 500 people worked in the kitchens alone.
Today, the castle grounds are once again displayed in all their former glory. The conservators were successful in completely restoring all 145,000 square metres of stucco work. In addition, the Venaria has also kept its original furniture and works of art. The region was successful in borrowing or buying many of the former furnishings and works of art from the international antiquities market.
The Basilica of Superga was built as a votive church in the foothills of the Colli Torinesi. Duke Vittorio Amadeo II vowed to construct the church when Turin was besieged by French troops in 1706. After the successful defence, Filippo Juvarra was entrusted with the church’s construction and positioned it in such a way as to provide a breathtaking view over the city centre. From then on, the Savoys were in terred in the basilica’s crypt. The fact that heroes of modern-day Italy are also buried here has a tragic background: The football team of AC Turin, and thus a significant percentage of the
Italian national team at the time, died in 1949 when their aircraft crashed into the Superga hills in the fog.
To be visited:
Royal tombs of the House of Savoy, dome, royal apartments and Museo del Grande Torino
It is simply sensational how the Sacra di San Michele Abbey thrones on a mountain high above the Susa Valley. One of the most famous Benedictine monasteries is today one of Europe’s most important examples of Romanesque architecture. Visitors must conquer an ascent up 243 stairs to reach the Porto dello Zodiaco. A unique view awaits upon arrival at the top. The abbey is dedicated to the archangel Michael and is located exactly halfway be tween the other two major St.Michael’s shrine s: the Mont Saint Michel in France and the Santuario di San Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo in Apulia. At the foot of the mountain the pilgrim’s road Via Francigena has led to Rome for time immemorial - the abbey was a ‘rest stop’ of sorts for pilgrims.
The impressive shape of the abbey is due to the fact that the mountain has a very abrupt peak. In order to build the church, 26-m-high retaining walls had to be built to surround the summit of the mountain. The church was then built on top of it. The very steep and impres sive ‘Stairway of the Dead’, which leads up to the church, is located inside the retaining walls. The 20 skeletons that lay next to the stairs have since been removed and laid to rest underneath the stairway.
In addition to the Sacra di San Michele, the medieval historic district of Avigliana, the town at the foot of the abbey, is also worth a visit.
The wine bank is a one-of-a-kind impressive oenological showcase, in which one can discover Italy through its major wines. A museum to admire ‘with glass in hand’, 2,000 m2, that sweep the visitor along on a journey, region by region, through the history of the wine growing regions, with wine tastings, events and themed workshops.
The building of the Mole Antonelliana, an Israelite temple, began in 1883 as a project of the architect Alessandro Antonelli. Today it houses the collection of the national film museum, which thanks to its diversity numbers among the most significant in the world. Also located in the Mole Antonelliana is the panoramic lift, with which one can reach a breathtaking view of the city at a height of 85 metres.
The access to the lift and the visit to the museum are independent of each other.
Gastronomic temple of luxury for the delicate palate, offers exclusively Italian delicacies. This first Slow Food megashop was opened in 2007 by the local entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti. Covering an area of 11,000 m2, Eataly offers fine products products produced by hand in a market atmosphere, eight gourmet restaurants, two coffee houses, a wine cellar and a brewery as well as a very special ice cream parlour with over 30 different in-house ice cream flavours. The grounds of the former Carpano vermouth factory from 1908 also house the Carpano Museum. Here visitors can learn everything about the history of vermouth while participating in exciting tastings. Three main focuses - buying, eating and learning - make this gastronomic paradise into a unique experience, since the gourmet temple offers everything when it comes to the topic gastronomy: from a wide palette of products
for connoisseurs to the presentation of famous Italian chefs to cooking courses on all possible topics. And the best thing is: Thanks to the philosophy of the Eataly founder - ‘Better eating means better living’ - the prices are affordable for everyone.
Third Sunday in October:
Bataille des Reines - Battles of the Queens
The cow plays a central role in the culture of the Aosta Valley. That is why they get particular attention here: during weekends between spring and autumn the farmers in and around Aosta let their best cows enter the fighting ring against each other, to thereby determine the participants in the big finale in October. Here, in addition to the award ceremony for the victorious cow, a colourful folk festival takes place that brings every visitor a bit closer to the local culture and is really quite an experience!
This festival takes place on the 3rd weekend in June in commemoration of the war of succession in the Duchy of Monferrato.
For two days, over 2000 people in 17th-century historical costumes re-enact the Siege of Canelli, which took place in 1613. The historical accuracy of the re-enactment and the participants’ high level of excitement make this event a thrilling experience.
Luci d’Artista - in November and December in Turin you can admire lovely light installations by various artists. They are not all necessarily Christmas-themed; the exhibition has rather more to do with art in the form of light. Around 15 installations are spread around the entire city centre and create a truly splendid atmosphere.
In Alba everything revolves around the white truffle from the beginning of October to the middle of November. The truffle festival is opened every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 to 20:00. Here you can try, sniff at and buy truffles. In addition, the fair offers food lovers the chance to discover regional culinary specialities and wines: cheese, salami, pasta and much more are available for purchase at the numerous stands.
This fair that takes place annually in the historic district of Aosta in the middle of January is dedicated to St. Orso. The streets of the centre are festively decorated and numerous examples of the antique local handcrafts are put out on display - from wooden sculptures to wrought iron pieces, objects out of potstone and leather articles to games and masks.
The Castello di Pralormo, located on the hill of Pralormo 30 kilometres south of Turin, was first mentioned in the 13th century. In the middle of the 19th century, the architect Enrico Melano, who had previously worked on the Palace of Racconigi, was commissioned to turn the castle into a residence. At the same time, the garden architect Xavier Kurten expanded the grounds of the garden and used the space to create an English park. Since 1994, this park, with its greenhouses and annexes, has been the site of an extraordinary annual tulip exhibition. Visitors to the festival can admire 70,000 tulips.
A 700-year-old ceremony, which takes place every third Sunday in September. The highlights of this event are a procession in traditional 13th-century costumes (ca. 800 costumes) and the demonstration of the flag throwers.
Every year the Palio degli Asini takes place on the Piazza Osvaldo Cagnasso and attracts many visitors. The donkey race at 16:30 is proceeded by a colourful parade with more than a thousand participants in Alba’s historic district.
You can experience a special spectacle during carnival time in Ivrea. The highlight is the so-called ‘Battaglia delle Arance’, the orange battle. During this the young men of Ivrea throw ripe oranges at each other; thousands of tons of oranges are imported from Sicily and Calabria for this performance. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when the inhabitants of the city drove out a cruel feudal lord with edible projectiles.
The Castle of Fenis, on the other hand, looks exactly as one would expect a castle to look: with walls protected by battlements and many towers, it is the most beautiful and also most well-preserved castle complex from the Middle Ages.
The imposing Forte di Bard, which was constructed as a customs station back in the 11th century, thrones upon a lonely rock outcrop. After its destruction under Napoleon, it was reconstructed as a powerful citadel by the Savoys between 1830 and 1838. The colossal walls and bastions wrap around the entire mountain like a second skin, b ehind which extensive casemates, training grounds and labyrinth-like passageways are hidden.
Issogne Castle is a good example of a summer residence and is representative of carefree courtly life. Sights worth seeing include the interior rooms, still partially furnished in their original style, such as the Hall of the Barons on the ground floor, whose walls are decorated with magnificent illusionistic frescoes with portrayals of landscapes, hunting and courtly scenes, or the royal hall on the first floor with coffered ceiling bedecked with lilies.
In stark contrast, the castle of Verres is a fortress, which stands watch over the entrance to the Ayas Valley from its position high upon a rise. In the shape of a cube, with each side measuring 30 m and a square-shaped inner courtyard, it makes a forbidding impression.
In the well-preserved interior, the staircases going from one storey to another, supported by arcades, are of architectural interest.
Travel to Mondovì. This city has two parts connected by cable car. The building of the most historical importance is located in the upper part of the city, on the Piazza Maggiore, which was constructed out of the tip of a rocky plateau. Just a few kilometres down the road you will visit the lovely pilgrimage church of Santuario di Vicoforte, which was built under the Savoys and houses one of Europe’s largest oval domed structures. In the afternoon the tour continues through a charming stretch of forest to the Grotto of Bossea. This grotto numbers among Italy’s most enchanting due to its size and underground lakes. A distance of 836 m of the ca. 2 km-long grotto with a drop of 217 m are accessible.
Today you will visit Gran Paradiso National Park. The magnificent national park extends around the over 4,000-m-high mountain of the same name with a fascinating high mountain landscape. You can take a hike through the national park starting in Cogne or travel up the 2,075-m-high Mont Cuc by basket lift.
The trip starts in Asti. A stroll through the historic district is enough to feel the magic of this place. This former city republic with medieval character is known as the ‘San Gimignano of Piedmont’ due to its many soaring family towers and is the centre of the wine growing region of Monferrato, in which its most gentile representatives Moscato and Barbera d’Asti are grown. The next stop is the small town of Canelli. It is considered the local capital of Asti with its Castello Gancia overlooking the historic district. Many tradi tion-filled wineries, also called underground cathedrals, are located here, which are to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will visit one of these wineries. At the end of the day you can test the various distillates during a grappa tasting.
Discover one of the world’s most famous wine growing regions, the Langhe. During the excursion you will see numerous castles and palaces reigning high atop the hills and the hills themselves are planted all over with grapevines. Alba, the city of white truffle hosts the International Alba White Truffle Fair.
Excursion into the Susa Valley, the old connecting road of pilgrims between France and Italy. The valley is dominated by the Sacra di San Michele, a 1,000-year-old abbey, which is often compared with the French Mont St. Michel both for its spectacular location and its fortress-like char acter. The tombs of the departed of the Savoy-Carignano House lie in the crypt. It was used as a model for the monastery in Umberto Eco’s novel ’The Name of the Rose’.
Travel to Courmayeur, the oldest Italian alpine spa town located directly at the foot of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc. During your stay you can take the cable car to Helbroner at an altitude of 3,462 m (costs extra). In the afternoon you will get to know the old Roman city of Aosta. Enter through the Arch of Augustus and let yourself be transported back in time.
On this excursion you will visit Cuneo with its picturesque historic district, cathedral and the over 8-km-long arcaded passageways with their many shops. The next stop is Saluzzo, a small, enchanting city at the foot of Monviso. The beautiful, old houses of this small city present visitors with a typical picture of a Piedmontese city. The cobblestone streets lead to steep staircases, lovely churches and elegant little palaces, which surround hidden gardens. From here the excursion continues to the Abbazia di Staffarda, a Cistercian abbey from the 12th century.
On the city tour of Turin you will see the Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, San Lorenzo and gain a first impression of the magnificence of this city. Afterwards you will have time to stroll through the lively, Baroque historic district. Taking a nice walk is no problem in Turin, since the kilometre-long arcades allow a relaxed stroll even when it is raining. One good idea is a visit to the Mole Antonelliana, once a Jewish synagogue and today the Italian film museum. Next to the many attractive exhibits there, taking the lift is a neat experience due to the panoramic view of the city at the top.